Avalanche goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere makes save on the Penguins' Sidney Crosby in the first period at Consol Energy Center.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Colorado's lineup is laced with guys capable of altering the course of any game, of stealing a point or two pretty much on their own.
It seems almost counterintuitive that a 36-year-old backup goaltender would be one of them.
At least at this stage of his career.
But the Jean-Sebastien Giguere who rejected all 34 shots the Penguins launched at him in a 1-0 Colorado victory Monday night at Consol Energy Center looked a lot like the guy who led Anaheim to a Stanley Cup in 2007, four years after earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP by carrying the Mighty Ducks to a Cup final.
"Giguere made some big saves," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "You have to give him credit."
Most of the credit, actually, for Colorado's victory, because the Penguins rang up a 34-14 margin in shots, and a commensurate advantage in scoring chances.
"There were three or four saves [on shots] that were labeled," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
"He was rock-solid in there."
Truth be told, Giguere has been almost flawless through the early weeks of the season, recording two shutouts and turning aside 101 of 103 shots over his three starts.
While he likely isn't a threat to unseat Semyon Varlamov as the Avalanche's go-to goalie, it's easy to understand why Colorado coach Patrick Roy had no qualms about starting him on the road against an opponent that had generated three or more goals in each of its first eight games.
The loss was the Penguins' first in six games at home this season, and dropped their record to 7-2.
Colorado, meanwhile, improved to 8-1, and burnished its credentials as a legitimate force in the NHL.
The Avalanche got the only goal it needed at 5:26 of the second period when, eight seconds after serving a hooking minor, Gabriel Landeskog used Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik as a screen and blurred a wrist shot past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's glove.
"I had some flex on my stick, and I guess [Orpik] screened Fleury a little bit," Landeskog said.
"I was lucky a little bit that it went in."
Fleury said teammate Brandon Sutter got his stick on the puck when Landeskog shot, causing the puck to change direction.
"I thought it was going blocker," he said. "Then [Sutter] got his stick on it, back-checking, and it went the other way."
Landeskog's penalty was the Penguins' fifth opportunity with the extra man in the first 24 minutes of the game, but they failed to capitalize on any of the seven they were awarded over the course of the game.
Not because they were unable to manufacture some excellent chances.
"We had plenty of opportunities there, had plenty of good looks," Bylsma said.
"There were three or four I think the guys would like to have back."
The game had been hyped, particularly in Canada, because Crosby and Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon, the first player chosen in the June draft, both hail from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
That head-to-head competition wasn't nearly as close as the game.
Crosby finished with a clear statistical advantage, accumulating seven shots and 17-11 record on faceoffs in 26 minutes, 40 seconds of ice time, compared to two shots and a 2-5 mark on draws in 10:54 of work for MacKinnon.
Crosby, whose eight-game scoring streak ended, didn't get anything to show for his effort.
And while there's no satisfaction in defeat, the Penguins can take some solace in knowing that their performance would be enough to earn a couple of points most nights.
"I like how we played," winger Jussi Jokinen said. "If we play like that, we'll win lots of games this year."
And if Giguere continues to play the way he has, the Avalanche is going to win plenty, too.
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